Systematic Innovation @ MedFuse 2020 — 6/18/2020

Radical Innovation in the Age of COVID

How we used a fusion of systematic innovation and quantitative analysis to anticipate the Apple / Google initiative for a non-intrusive approach to contact tracing

We used systematic innovation to formulate a model and simulate the progression of COVID-19 in Italy and South Korea. Our socio-technical analysis derived potential implications for global response; it was published as the lead article @ ORMS Today (the journal of operations research and management science). We combined a comprehensive problem-solving approach with rigorous quantitative analysis. We simulated the underlying biological parameters and their interactions with corresponding social interventions.

We identified particular configurations that would enable containment of the virus without destroying the economy. Our analysis suggests a more nuanced combination of social interventions with particular emphasis on a sustainable approach to contact tracing; we anticipated the Apple / Google initiative for a non-intrusive approach to connection-based contact tracing. Our analysis also informs the current controversy over asymptomatic transmission.

We’ll discuss the application of systematic innovation to formulate the problem and solution; we’ll also discuss the broader implications of systematic innovation for product development and portfolio analysis in the COVID world and beyond.

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COVID-19 / Systematic Innovation @ MedCity News

Approaching a Fork in the COVID Road: Apple + Google or 1984

MedCity News is a niche publication on business and innovation in med tech / biotech / bio services

A sustainable approach to contact tracing is becoming a central factor in economic recovery. We have a limited range of social interventions for responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Although our options are limited, we can identify a path that effectively mediates between the complexities of biological forces and economic forces. This approach identifies “what’s missing” from conventional approaches. It solves the contradiction between economic recovery and biological stability; between private rights and the public interest; and between the effectiveness and intrusiveness of contact tracing. We need to make a sustainable decision — and soon.


Top epidemiologist Michael Osterholm confirms that a manual approach to contact tracing at this stage is not sustainable. Our only hope is an automatic approach that is non-intrusive. Yet public-health agencies seem to be leaning toward a manual approach with “armies” of contact tracers. No doubt that a manual approach is appropriate for pockets of opportunity, but it is not adequate for the heavy lifting that lies ahead.

“Early on, if you had a small number (of infections), you can get in and you can control it to the extent that you can’t get rid of it, but you can surely minimize it. Once it hits a level like it is in most countries right now, contact tracing plays almost no role. Once you see a big escalation in cases, you’ll be having contacts by the many thousands and thousands and thousands, and it’s just not going to work.”

(Michael Osterholm started the first program in the world for HIV contact tracing in 1985)

Coronavirus epidemiologist Q&A @ USA Today (5/12/20)


Q:  You’ve indicated that a manual approach to contact tracing is not effective at this stage; what is the potential for an automatic approach like the Apple / Google connection-based initiative?

A:  The electronic device approach is an important question; conventional methods won’t work for thousands of contacts per day; we don’t have time for elaborate studies / we can’t throw everything at the problem without thinking — it’s an opportunity for the creative aspect of contact tracing — we haven’t seen it yet — we need to evaluate our options

Q&A with Michael Osterholm @ “Living in a COVID-19 World“, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis + Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy @ University of Minnesota (5/26/20; 2:44:06 – 2:26:24)


As of 5/20/2020 — Alabama, North Dakota, and South Carolina have adopted the Apple + Google solution for non-intrusive contact tracing in a distributed (Bluetooth) architecture.



Predicting Ambidextrous Thinking in COVID-19 @ Apple / Google


In our socio-technical analysis of COVID-19 in Italy and South Korea, we prescribed a disruptive combination of social interventions and we predicted (derived) the Apple / Google initiative for a non-intrusive approach to contact tracing. Apple / Google used “ambidextrous thinking” (a form of systematic innovation) to solve the tension between the effectiveness and intrusiveness of contract tracing with a distributed Bluetooth architecture.